Here is where flipping the committees comes in. Most economists and businesspeople worth their salt do not make projections like those early public-health models. Economists build in a more sophisticated understanding of social effects, dynamic modeling, and the effect of widely publicized economic predictions on economic actors. That kind of broad approach would be useful to the public-health response right now. And besides, we need businessmen, entrepreneurs, and economists on the coronavirus task force because the task of scaling up a test-and-trace regime in the United States can be coordinated and facilitated by the federal government, but all the heavy lifting will be done by private enterprise.
Meanwhile, we need the public-health officials on the economic committee for a very simple reason: No single elected official, regional collective of state governments, or group of businessmen can wave a wand and get the economy running again in the healthy state it enjoyed before the world shut down. Entrepreneurs and business owners don’t need a pep talk from others in their field or financial pundits to get them raring to go. The opportunity-costs and lost wealth of the last six weeks alone are motivation enough. What they lack is guidance on how to run their businesses safely — both for employees and their bottom lines, which could be threatened by liability lawsuits — while the pandemic continues in the background. What their would-be customers lack is confidence that going back out into the world is safe. Public-health experts can help on both fronts.